In 2009, the quai Branly museum (Paris) organized an exhibition on Le Siècle du Jazz (The Century of Jazz) from March 17 to June 28. South African musicians were in the spotlight: Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath are present with the poster of the Willisau festival designed by Niklaus TroxlerThis poster is reproduced on the sleeve of the Ogun recording of the concert. Niklaus Troxler is the famous Swiss graphic designer who organized the Willisau Jazz Festival. He has designed many jazz covers, especially for the labels Ogun and Intakt. Examples include the LP recorded by Harry Miller, Family Affair, on Ogun and the very one recorded on Intakt by the duo Irene Schweitzer and Louis Moholo. Johnny Dyani with the poster of an FMP concert designed by Peter Brötzmann, Dollar BrandAt first Peter Brötzmann was a graphic designer before becoming the saxophonist we know. He makes almost all the covers of his albums. with another poster of an FMP solo concert, also by Peter Brötzmann and Louis Moholo (again with Johnny Dyani) with Bob Thompson’s painting reproduced, in reverse, on the label ESP recorded in Argentina by Steve Lacy. In other words, this article could have been entitled The Century of South African Jazz. But, in particular, the available graphic design documents are not as numerous as those presented at the quai Branly museum.
Lord, honour! Let’s start with Abdullah Ibrahim. Yes, he is not only an accomplished instrumentalist, but also an occasional graphic designer. More precisely, he designed the cover of one of his recordings where he plays the piano on four tracks: LIBERATION SOUTH AFRICA released on SAFCO (South African Freedom Committee) Records in 1978. This American label had only one issue. These are songs fighting against Apartheid in the isiXhosa and isiZulu languages. That could be a nice political poster: simplicity of the slogan, Liberation whose red paint drips like blood, revolutionary fist raised…
Moreover, the double orange portrait with a red sun that adorns the cover of Black Lightning (named for Lefifi Tladi) on As-Shams label was very often used in the late 1970s for posters of concerts by Abdullah Ibrahim. It’s on the cover of The Journey. Please note the left side of this double portrait on the albums Dollar Brand plays Sphere Jazz (second edition on As-Shams label), Dollar Brand + 3 with Kippie Moketsi (on the Soultown label) and, looking on the other side, Peace released on the same label.
Who made the drawing which represents Dollar Brand? I hesitate between two names : Donald Dallas who is credited for dollar brand +3 with kippie moketsi and Winston Saoli credited for Peace. The artwork of DOLLAR BRAND PLAYS SPHERE JAZZ is not credited. At first I thought that was Donald Dallas and Winston Saoli was only responsible for the coloured background of Peace. But the re-issue of Early Mart composed by Gideon Nxumalo in two parts presents a portrait of Early Mabuza by Winston Saoli. You may see the resemblance between the drawings of Dollar Brand and Early Mabuza. So I really don’t know who drew them.
I don’t know anything about Mafa Ngwenya who illustrated African Herbs for the As-Shams label. This artist represented a boboti, namely, a steaming pot where these famous African herbs are cooking. This realistic design offers dominant green, purple and brown. He (or she, for that matter) also made the cover of Tshona! , the record by Pat Matshikiza and Kippie Moketsi. It is the same style of drawing in the dominant yellow – brown – orange, this time. On the cover is a drunk man (Kippie?) bothered by two children who use slingshots (cattys). It is one of the most famous records of South African jazz.
There is another vinyl that features a drawing by Mafa Ngwenya: CASALOMA BROTHERS A Tribute To ELIJAH NKWANYANA, also on the As-Shams lable.
We know a little more about Hargreaves Ntukwana who beautifully illustrated the cover of Underground in Africa. Made when he was at most twenty years old, this painting allowed him to launch his career in the USA and Europe.
And he painted at least two more album covers:
That of Lionel Pillay’s recording on the As-Shams label, Plum and Cherry, uses his very characteristic style and Tete Mbambisa’s vinyl, Did You Tell Your Mother on the same lable, shows a trio of musicians: a saxophonist (Basil Coetzee), a pianist (Tete Mbambisa) and a double bass player (Zulu Bidi). Only the drummer (Monty Weber) is missing. This is one of the very few he would have done in black and white.
This splendid drawing below is very clean on the album of the Brotherhood of Breath, Procession, recorded in Toulouse (France) in 1977. It is due to George Hallett, well known for being the famous photographer born in Hout Bay (a few kilometers south of Cape Town) in 1942. He photographed so many covers for Ogun, including that of the Blue Notes in Concert, for which he also drew the cover.
Nathan Dambuza Mdledle (1923-1995), leader of the Manhattan Brothers, the most popular male vocal group in South Africa, went into exile in London with the lead role in the musical King Kong in the early 1960s. Once there, the fame of the Manhattan Brothers fell sharply and its main singer was reduced to acting and designing vinyl covers. In particular, he was the illustrator of three albums by Dudu Pukwana: Flute Music on the Caroline label, Diamond Express on the Freedom label and Zila’86 on the Jika label. His line of drawing appears extremely fine on the cover of Flute Music which takes up one of the themes dear to South African musicians, the sheebeen. Reminder: for many years under Apartheid, so-called “non-whites” were restricted in their access to alcohol.
One of the most famous South African painters and sculptors is called Dumile Feni (1939-1991). The life of this artist/activist revolves around the three places where he lived. First in South Africa (1939-1968), then in London (1968-1976) and finally in New York (1976-1991). Just as he was getting ready to board his plane back from exile to South Africa, he died of a heart attack.
The “Goya of the Townships“, as he was nicknamed, has produced at least four drawings for vinyl covers, the first called MANKUNKU JAZZ SHOW with three groups (The Soul Jazzmen, The Jazz Faces Quintet, The Lionel Pillay Trio), the second by Gideon Nxumalo, Gideon Plays with two variants (one bootleg and the one conforming to the original), the third for the eponymous album of the South African band Jabula and the last one, Hugh Masekela’s Home Is Where The Music Is.
Mal Waldron and Johnny Dyani’s LP bootleg Live at Centro Jazz St Louis was recorded on October 27, 1979 at the Institut Français in Rome. It is decorated with a drawing of Mbizo, Cobra the Eliphant, executed on March 30, 1986, the year of his death. The illustration of the album Rejoice – a drawing also inspired by art brut by Johnny Dyani, is no surprise to anyone who has read MBIZO: a book about Johnny Dyani.Art Brut is a pictorial movement theorized by Jean Dubuffet after the second world war. It is art made by people that absolutely nothing predestined to make art. There are two main categories of raw artists: mentally ill and mediumistic. Indeed, Mbizo, South African first name given to him by Sathima Benjamin, left us in this work about twenty drawings, all of the same design.
Lefifi Tladi, born on 4 January 1949 in the Lady Selborne township of Pretoria, is a South African artist with many activities: painter, sculptor, poet, author and musician. This member of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement lives and works in Sweden, but frequently returns to South Africa.
In March 2016, Lefifi Tladi identified the South African artist: Motlhabane Mashiangwako. The latter had drawn the cover of the CD whose producer, Gérard Terronès, thought it was from the hand of Johnny Mbizo Dyani: the double bass player had left him without specifying that he was not the author.
The Can You “Take It” artist is Darlington Michaels. The only known element is his participation in the vocalist group that sings on this musical by Gibson Kente (1932-2004). However, this director was much better known than the painter. Kente’s most famous musical play is How Long? First performed in 1973. Not only was he a director, he was also a writer, musician and producer of his entire theatre, which was stopped by the Soweto riots.
Below is JOBURG CITY STARS’ Grooving Jive NO.1 (12″ single, Shifty Records). Shifty owner Lloyd Ross was kind enough to explain: “Cover art was by the Graphic Equalizer, not sure who there…coulda been my girlfriend at the time Caroline Cullinan, but not sure. It was from a pic taken by me, which actually features on the UK release through Globestyle. Released in 1986.”
And let’s finish this article with the first two LPs of Dollar Brand (JAZZ epistle verse 1 with Jazz Epistles and DOLLAR BRAND PLAYS SPHERE JAZZ).These two LP were recorded in 1960 a few weeks apart. So Dollar Brand had not yet exiled himself (he only left for Switzerland in 1962) nor converted to Islam (which he did in London in 1968). For information, Kippie Moeketsi (as, cl), Hugh Masekela (tp), Jonas Gwangwa (tb), Dollar Brand (p), Johnny Gertze (db) and Makaya Ntshoko (dm) formed The Jazz Epistles. The different musicians do not appear (almost) on the covers: an incomplete set of instruments instead of the sextet, but the presence of the clarinet and the alto saxophone marks the importance of Kippie Moeketsi and a pianist conveniently hidden by his keyboard. Dollar Brand’s hairstyle does not look like the very one he wore in 1960: his skull was shaven. All illustrated in a very stylized way.
Thanks to Maymoena Hallett and Aryan Kaganof who authorized me to publish the two photographs of George Hallett and Motlhabane Mashiangwako, respectively. Also thanks to Siemon Allen who confirmed for me the identification of Dumile Feni as the author of the cover of Gideon Plays by Gideon Nxumalo.
|This poster is reproduced on the sleeve of the Ogun recording of the concert. Niklaus Troxler is the famous Swiss graphic designer who organized the Willisau Jazz Festival. He has designed many jazz covers, especially for the labels Ogun and Intakt. Examples include the LP recorded by Harry Miller, Family Affair, on Ogun and the very one recorded on Intakt by the duo Irene Schweitzer and Louis Moholo.
|At first Peter Brötzmann was a graphic designer before becoming the saxophonist we know. He makes almost all the covers of his albums.
|Art Brut is a pictorial movement theorized by Jean Dubuffet after the second world war. It is art made by people that absolutely nothing predestined to make art. There are two main categories of raw artists: mentally ill and mediumistic.
|These two LP were recorded in 1960 a few weeks apart. So Dollar Brand had not yet exiled himself (he only left for Switzerland in 1962) nor converted to Islam (which he did in London in 1968). For information, Kippie Moeketsi (as, cl), Hugh Masekela (tp), Jonas Gwangwa (tb), Dollar Brand (p), Johnny Gertze (db) and Makaya Ntshoko (dm) formed The Jazz Epistles.